To push for land reforms, farmers' rights, better education next

DELHI: Enthused by the tremendous public response to his indefinite fast for a strong and amended Lokpal Bill, anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare on Saturday raised the pitch promising more fights in the coming days for land reforms, farmers' rights and a better education system. Earlier, he had talked about agitating for electoral reforms and the right to recall.

As his fast entered the fifth day on Saturday, he said he felt “some weakness having lost 3.5 kg,” but asserted that he will not give up. “There is nothing to worry. I will keep fighting till we get the Jan Lokpal Bill [or amended Lokpal Bill that includes provisions of Jan Lokpal Bill],” he said to a roar of approval from the audience at the Ramlila Maidan here. By evening, the venue, with a capacity of about 50,000, was nearly full.

The activist demanded that the government withdraw its Lokpal Bill and pass the Jan Lokpal Bill in Parliament by August 30. There has been no initiative so far from the government to open dialogue with Mr. Hazare on his demand, which the Congress described as “unrealistic.”

“My fight will not end with the Jan Lokpal Bill. There is corruption in land being forcibly taken away from farmers for builders and companies. Farmers are being forced to commit suicide. We have to fight for them. The education system has become so corrupt that we have to pay money to get our children admitted in schools and colleges. This chain of corruption has to be broken. We have to change the system.”

Mr. Hazare was joined on the dais for a while by the former Law Minister and co-chairman of the joint Lokpal Bill drafting panel, Shanti Bhushan, who said that if the government had the “political will,” it could withdraw the Lokpal Bill and pass the Jan Lokpal Bill in Parliament by August 30 through a “whip.”

“The Bill can be introduced on Tuesday in the Lok Sabha, and discussed on Wednesday and Thursday. It can then be sent to the Rajya Sabha where discussions can easily be concluded by August 29-30 and the Bill passed,” he said, adding that, on many occasions, Bills have been passed within minutes of tabling, without any discussion or debate.

Asked if Mr. Hazare's demands did not amount to “blackmail,” Team Anna said he was not holding a gun to the head. If he did not agitate, the Lokpal will be hanging fire for another 42 years.

More In: National | News | States